Tulips in pots—works for me!


For the past 8 years or so, I have been filling up pots with tulips at the same time I do my October in-ground bulb plantings. Species tulips and other small bulbs like erythronium go in the ground, and the big hybrid tulips go into pots and a couple circular raised beds I installed specifically for tulips and annuals. I have no problem composting the tulips when I’m done—the show is always best the first year, and they only return reliably for maybe two years, especially in my shady front yard. It’s fun to choose different colors every year.

This year, it’s Prinses Irene and Christmas Orange, with some Orange Princess and Black Hero (both doubles) thrown in.

In the raised beds (above) I have Temples favorite, which I think might also go under the name Temple of Beauty. These, combined with all the species varieties I have, make a great spring show and provide the last burst of color I’ll see out here—once the maples leaf out, I’m done. I guess many might see this as wasteful, high-maintenance gardening but it’s the most fun I have all year. Making my perennials do what I want them to do–now that’s work.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Beautiful pictures! As a new-ish resident of upstate NY I love this whole tulip season… and it’s especially nice this year since everything bloomed too early last year.

  2. I really would love to do this. Where do you overwinter your pots? I am afraid here in Montana it would just get too cold. And I don’t have an indoor spot to store that is cold enough.

    • I have an unheated garage, which is perfect but I think if they were outside completely covered in bags of leaves or something like that, it might work.

  3. The Temple’s Favorite/Temple of Beauty are amazing – seem to get bigger every day in bloom, and last a long time – once described as ‘tulips on steroids’! They behave like a perennial tulip if planted that way – if the maturing foliage can be tolerated (probably not by your beautiful front entry).

  4. I am in Wisconsin and we overwinter our pots outside on the north side of the garage. I build a hay bale wall around the pots and then fill in between them with leaves or straw. I have to cover our pots with 1/4 inch mesh hardware cloth weighted down with bricks. If I don’t, the voles get in and eat the tulip bulbs. Our main pots are 24″ wide and I use 50 bulbs per pot. Smaller pots can be sunk in the ground but I would still cover them with hardware cloth (metal screen).

  5. “I guess many might see this as wasteful, high-maintenance gardening”

    So they don’t have to do it. You don’t have to apologize.

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